Open source devotees aren’t quite as addicted to Apple as most people online, but they still use Apple products overwhelmingly over competing products from other vendors. How do we know that? We asked!

Eldarion conducted an online survey of people who use and contribute to open source, people who use open source but don’t contribute to it, and people who neither contribute nor (knowingly) use open source.

132 people responded to the survey in March and April 2015.

The survey found that that open source contributors are less likely to use Apple products than others and more likely to use Linux and Android. Nevertheless, nearly three out of four (73%) open source contributors still use at least some Apple products.

For OSS contributors and non-contributors alike, OS X was named the most frequently used operating system. 22% of the OSS contributors said they used Linux (vs. 7% of non-contributors), and 8% said they used Windows (vs. 21% of non-contributors).

According to the survey, OSS contributors are more likely than others to use Android phones (38%). Nevertheless, more than one out of two (57%) say they use the iPhone.

Microsoft’s Reputation Among Open Source Community on the Upswing?

Once reviled by the OSS community, Microsoft's reputation seems to be turning around, at least for some respondents:

  • "Microsoft is trying to push the open web a lot lately," wrote one. "Microsoft used to be worse but has been embracing open source recently," said another.
  • "The 'new Microsoft' seems much more open and seems to be making a real effort with sharing code," wrote another defender of Microsoft.
  • Still another wrote that "Microsoft has open sourced a lot of stuff over the past few years, while Apple has tried to control everything."
  • "Open source will save Microsoft from ruin."

Though they were outnumbered, Apple critics among OSS contributors were also more outspoken than others:

  • "Apple tries to contain users in their world and doesn’t want to interconnect devices."
  • "Apple has always seemed rather secretive. Also, they tend to embrace and extend standard toolchains in a way that is annoying (e.g., XCode, etc.). Microsoft has been no angel to be sure, but seems to have improved its engagement with open source significantly over the last ten years."
  • "Apple is open source from the outside but terribly protective and intrusive from behind–the consistency of the user experience being the justification of keeping an ecosystem under control. A kind of walled garden, like in the Eagles Hotel California."
  • "For many developers, Apple is more like a religion that a technical opinion. This said, many of my potential customers are on Mac and iPhone. So I will have to invest time and money."

OSS contributors who defended Apple had this to say:

  • "Apple has a history of contributing to open source projects from BSD to ResearchKit."
  • "Apple has a history of contribution."
  • "Apple recognizes what they can gain by being involved in open source projects like CUPS and WebKit. I'm not suggesting they are in it for the goodwill of the community. It's just that they are not ignorant. I cannot say the same about Microsoft and the business leaders who standardize on it."

Respondents who said that Apple and Microsoft were "equally unfriendly" to open source gave a variety of explanations:

  • "Apple's probably more of a threat, because they're more relevant. Devs usually aren't going to use Windows; Apple takes mindshare away from free software."
  • "They're equally unfriendly: Microsoft is getting better, Apple is getting worse. I'm sure it'll all be very different in five years."
  • "Microsoft was unfriendly and is now trying to improve. I still resent them for the past. It will take a lot more to overcome what they have done."
  • "I feel like much of their contributions back to open source are limited and just enough to appear to care about open source."

"Our online survey revealed several illuminating insights," said James Tauber, CEO of Eldarion. "By and large, the open source community is composed of intelligent, independent-minded thinkers who are also pragmatists. It’s no surprise that a diversity of opinions were reflected in our survey. The OSS community might like to gripe about Apple, but the fact remains that most of us still rely on Apple because we value what the company offers."